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North turns attention south again due to AQI

It was South Medford’s call in the first week of the season and North Medford football coach Mike MItchell confirmed Wednesday that his Black Tornado also won’t be able to take to Spiegelberg Stadium this week due to air quality index (AQI) concerns.

With looming worries over whether an impending thunderstorm for the Rogue Valley would do enough to make it safe to play football in Medford’s friendly confines, the Black Tornado will return to California for a second straight week after having its game against Shasta High moved to Saturday in Redding, California. Game time was still to be determined as of press time.

“We’d just like to have a home game this week and play at Spiegelberg but it is what it is,” said Mitchell.

“I don’t like the idea of starting the season with three road trips like we’ll have to do now,” he added, “but that’s just something we can’t do anything about. We need to play more than we need to cancel this game so if we have to play in Pendleton, Oregon, then we need to do it.”

North Medford (0-1) opened the season with a 34-21 loss at Fortuna, California, last week in a game that saw the Huskies outscore the Black Tornado 20-7 in the second half to pull away.

“We threw the ball pretty well and that part of our game was good and we played spots of really good defense,” said Mitchell, “but we gave up some big plays. We had our chances to win that game right through the fourth quarter.”

Senior quarterback Josh Robbins completed 14 of 26 passes for 203 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions last week, with Tyler Evans getting things going on a 31-yard scoring strike to finish with four catches and 54 yards. Senior Vicente Borja added three catches for 68 yards, including a 47-yard TD in the fourth quarter, and Eli Spence had four catches for 65 yards.

Where North Medford struggled was in the running game, with Harley Robinson leading the way at 29 yards on 11 carries as the Black Tornado amassed minus-12 yards rushing overall after Robbins took a few significant tackles for loss.

“We’ve got a long ways to go there,” said Mitchell. “We didn’t run the ball very well last week and we really need to get our running game going more than it is.”

For Shasta (2-0), the running game is practically its entire offense, even more so than the run-happy Fortuna squad that toted the ball 52 times for 283 yards last week. Senior Vinny Smith (5-foot-9, 190 pounds) is the team’s inside runner and is averaging 9.8 yards per carry after netting 303 yards and four TDs on 31 carries thus far. Senior Seth Park (5-1, 175) provides a speedy complement and averages 15 yards per carry after 21 runs for 314 yards and four TDs.

At quarterback, senior Ian Garcia has gone to the air only 11 times and completed five passes for 53 yards and a score.

“They’re extremely quick,” said Mitchell of Shasta’s lead tandem. “They do a good job of blocking and they really have fast kids to make their running game go.”

Being up to speed is something that definitely concerns Mitchell after his team will have practiced only in the gymnasium this week before shipping off to Redding.

“Getting the speed you need out of your practice is hard when you’re indoors so we’ve got to just do the best we can with that and hope this thing goes away soon,” said Mitchell. “I don’t remember it ever being this bad.”

SOUTH ALBANY AT CRATER: The plan is to play at Dutch Meyer Stadium on Friday but if expected rain Thursday doesn’t boost the air quality Crater is considering a venue switch to play on the road at South Albany. Comets Athletic Director David Heard has set a Friday morning deadline to make that call.

Both teams were on the losing end of the scoreboard last week, but had notable moments to give hope for a quick turnaround. South Albany went 94 yards on its opening drive to take the lead on Mountain View before falling 28-7, while Crater held its own against a strong Soldotna team before succumbing 20-7 as the Alaskan squad extended its winning streak to 54 games.

In his first start at quarterback, South Albany senior Jake Costello completed 6 of 16 passes for 79 yards with two interceptions — one at the goal-line in the first half — and the Rebels were led on the ground by Ray Wilson (10 carries, 64 yards, one TD) and Cael Matta (six carries, 43 yards). Eli Nafziger was his team’s top receiving target.

Sophomore QB Trever Davis completed 15 of 20 passes for 125 yards and ran for a TD last week, with Bailee Robles catching seven passes for 53 yards and Cade Weaver running eight times for 94 yards to pace the Comets.

EAGLE POINT AT RIDGEVIEW: Eagle Point will look to make a big leap from its opener, when the Eagles allowed 413 yards of total offense to Glencoe and were decidedly one-dimensional on offense in a 28-14 loss. In that game, the Eagles ran 61 times for 270 yards but completed only 1 of 3 passes, although it did end up being an 11-yard TD from Josh Sitzer to Jimmy Kinyon.

Ridgeview got a pair of TD runs by Conner Benz and another TD run by Micah Cupp but couldn’t keep up with Thurston’s passing game in a 55-20 setback in Week 1.

Noah Page rushed 21 times for 123 yards, Alex Carrillo 17 times for 93 yards and Devin Bradd 16 times for 61 yards to pace the Eagles in their opener.

Given the air quality issues in Bend, EP AD Seth Womack said the game likely could be moved to the Klamath Falls area or possibly Eugene.

SUMMIT AT ASHLAND: Ashland head coach Beau Lehnerz said Wednesday he “strongly doubts” the Grizzlies will be able to play host to Summit on Friday but he remains hopeful as his team looks to build off its opening win over Klamath Union. As with several other teams, Lakeview may be in play should the air status not change.

These teams met in the 2015 Class 5A state championship but neither team boasts any key player back from that group. One name that will be familiar, however, is Summit quarterback Henry Bledsoe, whose brother John was the QB in 2015 and father is former NFL QB Drew Bledsoe. Henry Bledsoe tossed two TDs in last week’s loss to 6A Clackamas.

The young Grizzlies got a great effort last week from Gabe Ekwall, who caught three passes for 102 yards and one TD from QB Cade Swenson, while Austin Harris rushed 16 times for 54 yards and Ashland’s defense limited KU to 58 yards of total offense.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@mailtribune.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry